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The Importance of Low Latency in Business Aviation Connectivity

In previous blogs and in several of our reports, we’ve covered the “three C’s of in-flight connectivity” (which should really be four when you consider the costs involved). Latency is another important, but often overlooked, part of the connectivity experience and is defined as the total time it takes a data packet to travel from one node to another. It is sometimes argued that latency has little bearing on most passenger-facing connectivity applications, and this may well be true in commercial aviation (although high latency can cause page load times to be slow when take rates are high). However, the way connectivity is used, and the expectations that accompany this use, are completely different in business aviation. Business travellers are much more inclined to use video conferencing software, have VoIP conversations and connect to a VPN. For each of these applications, latency is of paramount importance. Online in-flight gaming is another emerging application that can require a very low latency system. The rollout of 5G networks, which exhibit latency of between 20 and 30 milliseconds, will increase pressure on vendors to shorten the cycle time between the on-ground experience and expectations in the air.

According to NetForecast, an independent provider of broadband performance solutions, the average roundtrip packet time from a PED to an online service using a landline connection is 25 milliseconds. In-flight, however, across all currently deployed technologies, it is in the region of 790 milliseconds. Furthermore, the company estimates that packet loss, which is the number of packets that don’t make it to their destination and need to be re-sent, is around 0.05 per cent using a landline connection, but as high as 13 per cent on in-flight connections. Latency and packet loss at this level can, therefore, cause problems with web pages loading, especially if you have multiple users requesting data at the same time, creating a bottleneck that is independent of bandwidth.

While there are technological strategies to mitigate against the impact of latency on services, the only real way to minimise it is to reduce the distance between the origin of a data packet and its destination. For this reason, satellites in orbit at a higher altitude have a higher degree of latency than those in a lower orbit. The same is true of ATG communications. Because cell towers on the ground are closer to the aircraft flying above, latency is inherently lower than with any kind of satellite system. Another important consideration is the design of the connectivity system itself. Those that allocate the majority of their bandwidth in the forward link can expect to see a higher level of roundtrip latency than a symmetrical design where bandwidth is equally distributed between the forward and return link.

When it comes to satellite networks, it is also important to consider the impact of the ground network on latency. Tests of new LEO satellites have shown incredibly low latencies, but one should note that these are not necessarily representative of real-world conditions. OneWeb, for example, achieved average single trip latency of 32 milliseconds during testing in July 2019 and Telesat achieved 18 milliseconds round-trip latency in a February 2020 test. In both instances, there was no “true” ground network to speak of where a packet of data would travel from an aircraft to a satellite, to a ground station and an Internet breakout point (and back). Rather, these tests measured the physical round-trip time from terminal to ground (via satellite) but not out to the Internet via the ground network.

As most LEO networks are still in their infancy, their exists little data to show what average measured round-trip latency might look like on a business aircraft. We do know that whilst Iridium expects round-trip latency for its Certus solution to be in the region of 30 – 50 milliseconds in future, the network was actually pinging at about 500 milliseconds as of February 2019. Similarly, our understanding of OneWeb’s proposed architecture, had it been built out, is that round-trip latency could have been as low as 40 milliseconds or as high as 200 milliseconds, depending where in the world the aircraft happened to be and where traffic terminated on the ground. Along these lines, Telesat’s marketing material for its upcoming LEO constellation indicates that although round-trip latency for the space segment is expected to be less than 50 milliseconds, taking account of both the space and ground segments increases this to less than 100 milliseconds.

Furthermore, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently provided information on why it doesn’t think SpaceX and can call itself low latency for purpose of getting funding under the bulk of the $16 billion rural broadband initiative. The proposal, released this week, is scheduled for a vote by the five-member commission at its 9th June meeting and suggests that – as intimated above – “the distance between Earth and satellites is not the only factor determining latency” and that “in the absence of a real world example of a non-geostationary orbit satellite network offering mass market fixed service to residential consumers that is able to meet our 100 millisecond round trip latency requirements, Commission staff could not conclude that such an applicant is reasonably capable of meeting our low latency requirements, and so we foreclose such applications”. SpaceX claims round-trip latency of its Starlink network will be less than 50 milliseconds.

MEO satellite networks are also in their infancy as far as their use in providing connectivity to business jets goes. SES, which does not yet use its O3b constellation for airborne connectivity, claims that general end-to-end round-trip latency is in the region of 140 milliseconds for data services. Likewise, we do not yet have an accurate read on what average round-trip latency will look like on a business jet connected to a next-gen ATG network such as those being developed by Gogo and SmartSky Networks. The latter, which will launch its network in 2020, one year ahead of Gogo’s new 5G ATG network, claims users will see round-trip latency below 100 milliseconds. Indeed, during various demo flights, the company has indicated that the latency when playing online multiplayer game, Fortnite, typically ranged between 70 and 90 milliseconds.

For these reasons, the table below shows only average measured round trip latencies for the two types of aircraft network commonly deployed today: legacy ATG and the GEO networks that have been the staple of satellite-based IFC for some time. For comparison, the table also shows what typical round trip latency looks like for familiar terrestrial networks such as home Internet and ground-based LTE.

Table 1: Comparison of Round-Trip Latency Associated with Different Networks

Source: www.experiencetest.net

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Latency is another important, but often overlooked, part of the connectivity experience and is defined as the total time it takes a data packet to travel from one node to another. It is sometimes argued that latency has little bearing on most passenger-facing connectivity applications, and this may well be true in commercial aviation (although high latency can cause page load times to be slow when take rates are high). However, the way connectivity is used, and the expectations that accompany this use, are completely different in business aviation. Business travellers are much more inclined to use video conferencing software, have VoIP conversations and connect to a VPN. For each of these applications, latency is of paramount importance. Online in-flight gaming is another emerging application that can require a very low latency system. The rollout of 5G networks, which exhibit latency of between 20 and 30 milliseconds, will increase pressure on vendors to shorten the cycle time between the on-ground experience and expectations in the air. According to NetForecast, an independent provider of broadband performance solutions, the average roundtrip packet time from a PED to an online service using a landline connection is 25 milliseconds. In-flight, however, across all currently deployed technologies, it is in the region of 790 milliseconds. Furthermore, the company estimates that packet loss, which is the number of packets that don’t make it to their destination and need to be re-sent, is around 0.05 per cent using a landline connection, but as high as 13 per cent on in-flight connections. Latency and packet loss at this level can, therefore, cause problems with web pages loading, especially if you have multiple users requesting data at the same time, creating a bottleneck that is independent of bandwidth. While there are technological strategies to mitigate against the impact of latency on services, the only real way to minimise it is to reduce the distance between the origin of a data packet and its destination. For this reason, satellites in orbit at a higher altitude have a higher degree of latency than those in a lower orbit. The same is true of ATG communications. Because cell towers on the ground are closer to the aircraft flying above, latency is inherently lower than with any kind of satellite system. Another important consideration is the design of the connectivity system itself. Those that allocate the majority of their bandwidth in the forward link can expect to see a higher level of roundtrip latency than a symmetrical design where bandwidth is equally distributed between the forward and return link. When it comes to satellite networks, it is also important to consider the impact of the ground network on latency. Tests of new LEO satellites have shown incredibly low latencies, but one should note that these are not necessarily representative of real-world conditions. OneWeb, for example, achieved average single trip latency of 32 milliseconds during testing in July 2019 and Telesat achieved 18 milliseconds round-trip latency in a February 2020 test. In both instances, there was no “true” ground network to speak of where a packet of data would travel from an aircraft to a satellite, to a ground station and an Internet breakout point (and back). Rather, these tests measured the physical round-trip time from terminal to ground (via satellite) but not out to the Internet via the ground network. As most LEO networks are still in their infancy, their exists little data to show what average measured round-trip latency might look like on a business aircraft. We do know that whilst Iridium expects round-trip latency for its Certus solution to be in the region of 30 – 50 milliseconds in future, the network was actually pinging at about 500 milliseconds as of February 2019. Similarly, our understanding of OneWeb’s proposed architecture, had it been built out, is that round-trip latency could have been as low as 40 milliseconds or as high as 200 milliseconds, depending where in the world the aircraft happened to be and where traffic terminated on the ground. Along these lines, Telesat’s marketing material for its upcoming LEO constellation indicates that although round-trip latency for the space segment is expected to be less than 50 milliseconds, taking account of both the space and ground segments increases this to less than 100 milliseconds. Furthermore, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently provided information on why it doesn’t think SpaceX and can call itself low latency for purpose of getting funding under the bulk of the $16 billion rural broadband initiative. The proposal, released this week, is scheduled for a vote by the five-member commission at its 9th June meeting and suggests that – as intimated above – “the distance between Earth and satellites is not the only factor determining latency” and that “in the absence of a real world example of a non-geostationary orbit satellite network offering mass market fixed service to residential consumers that is able to meet our 100 millisecond round trip latency requirements, Commission staff could not conclude that such an applicant is reasonably capable of meeting our low latency requirements, and so we foreclose such applications”. SpaceX claims round-trip latency of its Starlink network will be less than 50 milliseconds. MEO satellite networks are also in their infancy as far as their use in providing connectivity to business jets goes. SES, which does not yet use its O3b constellation for airborne connectivity, claims that general end-to-end round-trip latency is in the region of 140 milliseconds for data services. Likewise, we do not yet have an accurate read on what average round-trip latency will look like on a business jet connected to a next-gen ATG network such as those being developed by Gogo and SmartSky Networks. The latter, which will launch its network in 2020, one year ahead of Gogo’s new 5G ATG network, claims users will see round-trip latency below 100 milliseconds. Indeed, during various demo flights, the company has indicated that the latency when playing online multiplayer game, Fortnite, typically ranged between 70 and 90 milliseconds. For these reasons, the table below shows only average measured round trip latencies for the two types of aircraft network commonly deployed today: legacy ATG and the GEO networks that have been the staple of satellite-based IFC for some time. For comparison, the table also shows what typical round trip latency looks like for familiar terrestrial networks such as home Internet and ground-based LTE. Table 1: Comparison of Round-Trip Latency Associated with Different Networks

Source: www.experiencetest.net

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

The Battle for Business Jet Connectivity Supremacy

2019 was an exciting year in terms of new in-flight connectivity options for the business aviation market and in this article, we ponder whether the increased number of players each now offering a plethora of solutions can really be sustained longer term.

Historically, provision of wholesale cabin connectivity services for VIP and business aircraft has been dominated by four companies: Gogo, Viasat, Inmarsat and Iridium. Gogo now counts some 5,500 business aircraft on its air-to-ground (ATG) network, while Viasat lays claim to more than 1,100 cumulative shipments of its Ku-band system over the last decade. On the L-band side, Inmarsat and Iridium account for the bulk of the market and have done for some time. The former has built an enviable base of almost 4,000 aircraft that rely on its hugely-successful SwiftBroadband (SBB) service and over 600 using the Jet ConneX (JX) Ka-band solution. And with 10,000 aircraft installed with its services today, the latter estimates there’s a 90% chance a business jet will be using its voice services to power in-flight phone operations.

All this could be about to change, however. Over the last couple of years, a clutch of new entrants has emerged, presumably attracted by the higher margins on offer compared with the commercial aviation market. Global Eagle and Panasonic Avionics, for example, announced in 2015, their intent to target the bizliner and bizjet markets, respectively. While Global Eagle still harbours an ambition to pursue opportunities in the VVIP space through its ultra-high end PRIVA brand, Panasonic has stepped back and is concentrating solely on its role in IDAIR, a joint-venture with Lufthansa Technik.

Panasonic’s place in partnership with Astronics and Satcom Direct has since been taken by Intelsat and the trio launched FlexExec in October 2018. Installs have been temporarily suspended after the loss of the Intelsat-29e satellite, although expectations are that the service will re-launch in the early part of 2020. Until then, SES and Collins Aerospace will doubtless be looking to make hay with their new, rival Ku-band offering, LuxStream. Further down the line, OneWeb has vowed to revolutionise the connectivity market with a low-latency solution available for fitment on the lightest of bizjets that it plans to have available in the 2021/2022 timeframe.

Away from satellite-based connectivity, SmartSky Networks is in the final stages of completing its ATG network with entry-into-service and full CONUS coverage slated for 2020. Hardware is already installed on several business aircraft, including Embraer ERJs for launch customer, JSX. Rival, Gogo, as is the case with the other aforementioned players currently dominant, is not content to rest on its laurels and plans to launch an upgraded 5G ATG network the following year. Speculation persists that Gogo is also working with Gilat for its Ku-band tail-mount antenna. If true, such a solution would pit the company against Intelsat, SES and Viasat and allow it to address those business jets that travel internationally and that aren’t candidates for its bulkier fuselage mount 2Ku antenna.

Viasat hasn’t given up on its legacy Ku-band network and this year revealed new “Ku Advanced” packages with increased speeds of up to 10 Mbps and an easy migration path to its newer Ka-band system through use of existing aircraft wiring. Ka-band, of course, being a focus of Inmarsat, too. Despite its considerable early lead in this arena, the company continues to add capacity to the Global Xpress (GX) constellation. Inmarsat also has its eyes on supporting shorter intra-European flights having previously announced that the European Aviation Network (EAN) would be available for business aviation in “early 2019”, although timelines would appear to have slipped.

Last but by no means least is Iridium, which is seeking to tap into the increasing demand for backup communications systems with the recently-launched Certus solution. Due to its compact nature, Certus is also expected to find a place as a primary connectivity system on smaller aircraft for “lite connectivity” applications like in-flight messaging. As well as converting its existing customer base to Certus, Iridium will set its sights on capturing market share from L-band counterpart, Inmarsat.

But what’s so appealing about the bizav market that all these players with their many offerings are so intent on vying for a slice of the pie? As mentioned, margins in business aviation relative to air transport are much higher and while there is, surprisingly, a degree of price sensitivity around up-front equipment costs and on-going airtime fees, there is a willingness to pay for a good quality and reliable connectivity experience. Indeed, during the course of the research for our soon to publish study on the adoption of connectivity in this market, a common theme among interviewees was that non-functioning cabin connectivity is often cause to keep an aircraft on the ground. And it’s this level of heightened expectation that could make or break the prospects of those less familiar with having to provide a white glove service.

Simply put, business aviation is a very high touch market and connectivity providers need to cater to the specific demands of those operating no more than a handful of aircraft. A connectivity service needs to tie into the overall theme of making each aircraft or fleet of aircraft unique – something demonstrated by the fact interiors are often completely custom-crafted to match the exacting tastes of owners. Commercial aviation, on the other hand, is a higher volume market where low margin off-the-shelf products (premium cabin seats aside) are the order of the day. And as far as connectivity business models are concerned, airlines and their service providers have frankly struggled for years to make the paid-for approach work. For this reason, the likes of Intelsat and SES have been wise to partner with well-respected industry stalwarts like Satcom Direct and Collins Aerospace.

Though it’s impossible to say who will thrive and who might fall by the wayside in the battle for supremacy, it’s fair to say that we can most probably expect some level of consolidation in the market in the mid- to longer-term. We must remember that there is only a limited number of business aircraft that are viable candidates for many of the services being proposed. For fuselage mount solutions, there are around 500 bizliners that are large enough to accommodate large, bulky radomes. There are currently circa 6,500 large cabin jets and these – plus an extra 2,500 that are set to be added to the fleet over the next ten years – will be the prime target given that most can take a bullet-like tail radome but are not yet fitted with high-bandwidth Ku- or Ka-band connectivity. Beyond this, most of the remaining 16,000 super-midsize, midsize, light and very light business jets and a similar number of turboprops are only really suited to much less invasive ATG and L-band terminals.

A game changer will be the maturity of flat panel antenna technology, which has the potential to open up the total addressable market for high capacity satellite-based connectivity to much smaller airframes. A whole host of companies are currently working on solutions that aim to do just this but industry consensus is that we’re still several years away from market-ready products that overcome current challenges around power consumption, heat dissipation and cost. That being said, there will always be a significant chunk of smaller aircraft that never leave CONUS or Europe and are arguably most suited to an ATG solution. In this regard, the bases look well covered by Gogo, SmartSky and Inmarsat.

With all this in mind, it seems like a stretch to imagine that the bizav market can support so many different solutions. Those with ambitions to stay relevant in the long term need to ensure that they are best in class and not pursue an unwinnable race to the bottom on price, especially if it comes at the expense of a good quality experience. Anything less simply won’t be tolerated.

The competitive environment, market trends and the likely future adoption of connectivity in this space is explored in great depth in Valour Consultancy’s forthcoming report entitled “The Market for IFEC and CMS Systems on VVIP and Business Aircraftdue to publish in Q1 2020.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="5197|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/airplane-4702807_1280.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="none" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] 2019 was an exciting year in terms of new in-flight connectivity options for the business aviation market and in this article, we ponder whether the increased number of players each now offering a plethora of solutions can really be sustained longer term. Historically, provision of wholesale cabin connectivity services for VIP and business aircraft has been dominated by four companies: Gogo, Viasat, Inmarsat and Iridium. Gogo now counts some 5,500 business aircraft on its air-to-ground (ATG) network, while Viasat lays claim to more than 1,100 cumulative shipments of its Ku-band system over the last decade. On the L-band side, Inmarsat and Iridium account for the bulk of the market and have done for some time. The former has built an enviable base of almost 4,000 aircraft that rely on its hugely-successful SwiftBroadband (SBB) service and over 600 using the Jet ConneX (JX) Ka-band solution. And with 10,000 aircraft installed with its services today, the latter estimates there's a 90% chance a business jet will be using its voice services to power in-flight phone operations. All this could be about to change, however. Over the last couple of years, a clutch of new entrants has emerged, presumably attracted by the higher margins on offer compared with the commercial aviation market. Global Eagle and Panasonic Avionics, for example, announced in 2015, their intent to target the bizliner and bizjet markets, respectively. While Global Eagle still harbours an ambition to pursue opportunities in the VVIP space through its ultra-high end PRIVA brand, Panasonic has stepped back and is concentrating solely on its role in IDAIR, a joint-venture with Lufthansa Technik. Panasonic’s place in partnership with Astronics and Satcom Direct has since been taken by Intelsat and the trio launched FlexExec in October 2018. Installs have been temporarily suspended after the loss of the Intelsat-29e satellite, although expectations are that the service will re-launch in the early part of 2020. Until then, SES and Collins Aerospace will doubtless be looking to make hay with their new, rival Ku-band offering, LuxStream. Further down the line, OneWeb has vowed to revolutionise the connectivity market with a low-latency solution available for fitment on the lightest of bizjets that it plans to have available in the 2021/2022 timeframe. Away from satellite-based connectivity, SmartSky Networks is in the final stages of completing its ATG network with entry-into-service and full CONUS coverage slated for 2020. Hardware is already installed on several business aircraft, including Embraer ERJs for launch customer, JSX. Rival, Gogo, as is the case with the other aforementioned players currently dominant, is not content to rest on its laurels and plans to launch an upgraded 5G ATG network the following year. Speculation persists that Gogo is also working with Gilat for its Ku-band tail-mount antenna. If true, such a solution would pit the company against Intelsat, SES and Viasat and allow it to address those business jets that travel internationally and that aren’t candidates for its bulkier fuselage mount 2Ku antenna. Viasat hasn’t given up on its legacy Ku-band network and this year revealed new “Ku Advanced” packages with increased speeds of up to 10 Mbps and an easy migration path to its newer Ka-band system through use of existing aircraft wiring. Ka-band, of course, being a focus of Inmarsat, too. Despite its considerable early lead in this arena, the company continues to add capacity to the Global Xpress (GX) constellation. Inmarsat also has its eyes on supporting shorter intra-European flights having previously announced that the European Aviation Network (EAN) would be available for business aviation in “early 2019”, although timelines would appear to have slipped. Last but by no means least is Iridium, which is seeking to tap into the increasing demand for backup communications systems with the recently-launched Certus solution. Due to its compact nature, Certus is also expected to find a place as a primary connectivity system on smaller aircraft for “lite connectivity” applications like in-flight messaging. As well as converting its existing customer base to Certus, Iridium will set its sights on capturing market share from L-band counterpart, Inmarsat. But what’s so appealing about the bizav market that all these players with their many offerings are so intent on vying for a slice of the pie? As mentioned, margins in business aviation relative to air transport are much higher and while there is, surprisingly, a degree of price sensitivity around up-front equipment costs and on-going airtime fees, there is a willingness to pay for a good quality and reliable connectivity experience. Indeed, during the course of the research for our soon to publish study on the adoption of connectivity in this market, a common theme among interviewees was that non-functioning cabin connectivity is often cause to keep an aircraft on the ground. And it’s this level of heightened expectation that could make or break the prospects of those less familiar with having to provide a white glove service. Simply put, business aviation is a very high touch market and connectivity providers need to cater to the specific demands of those operating no more than a handful of aircraft. A connectivity service needs to tie into the overall theme of making each aircraft or fleet of aircraft unique – something demonstrated by the fact interiors are often completely custom-crafted to match the exacting tastes of owners. Commercial aviation, on the other hand, is a higher volume market where low margin off-the-shelf products (premium cabin seats aside) are the order of the day. And as far as connectivity business models are concerned, airlines and their service providers have frankly struggled for years to make the paid-for approach work. For this reason, the likes of Intelsat and SES have been wise to partner with well-respected industry stalwarts like Satcom Direct and Collins Aerospace. Though it’s impossible to say who will thrive and who might fall by the wayside in the battle for supremacy, it’s fair to say that we can most probably expect some level of consolidation in the market in the mid- to longer-term. We must remember that there is only a limited number of business aircraft that are viable candidates for many of the services being proposed. For fuselage mount solutions, there are around 500 bizliners that are large enough to accommodate large, bulky radomes. There are currently circa 6,500 large cabin jets and these – plus an extra 2,500 that are set to be added to the fleet over the next ten years – will be the prime target given that most can take a bullet-like tail radome but are not yet fitted with high-bandwidth Ku- or Ka-band connectivity. Beyond this, most of the remaining 16,000 super-midsize, midsize, light and very light business jets and a similar number of turboprops are only really suited to much less invasive ATG and L-band terminals. A game changer will be the maturity of flat panel antenna technology, which has the potential to open up the total addressable market for high capacity satellite-based connectivity to much smaller airframes. A whole host of companies are currently working on solutions that aim to do just this but industry consensus is that we’re still several years away from market-ready products that overcome current challenges around power consumption, heat dissipation and cost. That being said, there will always be a significant chunk of smaller aircraft that never leave CONUS or Europe and are arguably most suited to an ATG solution. In this regard, the bases look well covered by Gogo, SmartSky and Inmarsat. With all this in mind, it seems like a stretch to imagine that the bizav market can support so many different solutions. Those with ambitions to stay relevant in the long term need to ensure that they are best in class and not pursue an unwinnable race to the bottom on price, especially if it comes at the expense of a good quality experience. Anything less simply won’t be tolerated. The competitive environment, market trends and the likely future adoption of connectivity in this space is explored in great depth in Valour Consultancy’s forthcoming report entitled “The Market for IFEC and CMS Systems on VVIP and Business Aircraftdue to publish in Q1 2020. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

The Market for In-Flight Connectivity on VIP and Business Aircraft

Last month, Valour Consultancy released its latest analysis of the market for in-flight connectivity on VIP and business aircraft. The study draws upon our considerable expertise in analysing the adoption of in-flight connectivity (IFC) in commercial aviation and is the result of a rigorous primary research phase consisting of numerous interviews with key players from across the industry.

The report finds that, globally, there were 19,131 IFC systems on VIP and business aircraft at the end of 2016. L-band was by far and away the most dominant connectivity technology with cumulative connections representing 75% of the total. A large proportion of this is accounted for by Iridium, whose systems support in-flight satellite phone operations on almost 10,000 aircraft. The remainder of L-band connections are accounted for by Inmarsat, which has seen adoption of SwiftBroadband (SBB) pick up rapidly in recent years.

Uptake of Gogo’s Air-to-Ground (ATG) options has been similarly brisk in recent years. By the end 2013, there were 2,047 terminals connected to the Gogo Biz network. This had increased to 4,172 three years later.

ATG and L-band both have room for further growth in coming years, too.

With respect to ATG, there will likely be continued interest in Gogo’s solutions over the course of the forecast period (2016 to 2026), especially now that the company is close to commercial launch of Gogo Biz 4G and plans to have its next-generation ATG network, which will offer peak network speeds of more than 100 Mbps, up and running by 2018.

When you add SmartSky Networks and its 4G network into the mix, as well as the Inmarsat European Aviation Network (EAN), it is apparent that there remains plenty of potential for ATG technology. Though it is yet to be officially confirmed whether the EAN will be used by the business aviation industry, there appears to be consensus that it would work very well on board private aircraft.

While Inmarsat is reportedly seeing a lot of interest from operators looking to upgrade from lower-bandwidth IFC systems to Jet ConneX, the company is also working on increasing the performance of the L-band technology used for SBB. Iridium, meanwhile, is currently prepping for the launch of the second batch of Iridium NEXT satellites, which are due for lift off on the 25th June. Upon completion of the constellation in 2018 and the start of commercial service one year later, the so-called Iridium Certus solution will likely find favour among operators of those small- and medium-sized business jets less suited to the fitment of bulky radomes.

Adoption of Ku-band technology on VIP and business aircraft appears to have an equally rosy future – a view presumably shared by new market entrants, Panasonic Avionics and Global Eagle, as well as Gogo, which recently announced its first business aviation customer for 2Ku. Right now, there are some 500 Ku-band systems in operation on VIP and business aircraft and the vast majority of these are accounted for by ViaSat and its Yonder system (although it’s no longer referred to as Yonder, to shift the focus towards the ViaSat brand). Panasonic and Global Eagle representatives have not been shy in admitting that they are gunning for ViaSat in this market.

However, ViaSat appears content to focus on ensuring existing clients migrate to its Ka-band technology – a sensible strategy given the ongoing success of its Exede in the Air product in commercial aviation. Now that ViaSat-2 has finally launched after several setbacks, there will soon be a considerable amount of additional Ka-band capacity for business jets flying between North America and Europe. Additionally, the company says that it will have its three planned ViaSat-3 satellites operational around 2020 making ViaSat the only rival provider of global Ka-band capacity to Inmarsat.

By 2020, ViaSat could have some catching up to do if the take up of Jet ConneX is anything to go by. Having debuted in November 2016, there were an estimated 30 aircraft fitted with the solution by the turn of the year. Inmarsat has previously stated that it expects to see 150 Jet ConneX-equipped aircraft by the end of 2017 and has a goal of connecting 3,000 jets by 2020 (although it is apparently now upgrading its forecasts).

Overall, we are forecasting that by the end of 2026, there will be 37,710 IFC systems installed on VIP and business aircraft – almost double the current total. The reader should, of course, note that these numbers do not refer to the number of aircraft with IFC. In fact, it is estimated that today, around 1,000 to 2,000 aircraft with Iridium satellite phones also make use of Inmarsat’s SBB network. Likewise, Gogo has publicly reported 4,172 connections to its Gogo Biz service and acts as the service provider for 5,286 installed Iridium terminals as well as 214 installed SBB terminals (a total of 9,972 connections – all accurate and up to date at the end of 2016). However, the firm delivers services to 7,400 aircraft implying many are flying with more than one system installed.

The following factors have driven interest in IFC on VIP and business aircraft and will continue to do so in future:

  • Owners of business aircraft fitted with connectivity equipment some time ago will be keener to take advantage of more recent advances in satellite and hardware technology.
  • The ‘Uber-isation’ of the private aviation industry is increasingly being talked about and with e-commerce replacing traditional methods of sourcing and booking a business jet, easy comparisons between different operators and aircraft means that customers can see where one aircraft has IFC and another doesn’t. This transparency will further encourage operators to improve their offerings.
  • As well as the increased comparison between business jets and their features because of new e-commerce initiatives, business aviation is having to compete with the rapid adoption of IFC in commercial air transport perhaps making a first class connected seat more attractive than a private jet with no in-flight Wi-Fi.
  • Competition is hotting up with the likes of Global Eagle, Panasonic Avionics, BizJetMobile and SmartSky Networks all new to the market or preparing to enter.
  • The launch of several new high throughput satellites (HTS) and the prospect of cheaper capacity and faster services is having an extremely positive effect on the market with service providers having inked several new deals in recent years.
  • The connected aircraft and e-Enablement is beginning to resonate more and more as a way to drive operational efficiencies and help underpin the IFC business case.

Some of the remaining challenges to more widespread adoption of IFC on VIP and business aircraft are as follows.

  • Production of new business jets has stagnated and consequently reduced the possibility of line-fit offerability deals for many IFC providers and limited their opportunities for growth.
  • Fitting an aircraft with a sizeable antenna to enable IFC impacts aerodynamics and increases fuel burn, thereby driving up operating costs. Additionally, many smaller business jets are currently unable to accommodate larger Ku- and Ka-band antennas on their fuselages.
  • Current generation Ku-/Ka-band systems lock operators into the service provider (so the hardware is not provider agnostic) and should there be a desire to switch, a very expensive refit ensues.
  • While commercial airlines tend to fly set routes at specific times of day, business jets are more sporadic. One day they may be flying domestically in the US, the next they may be making their way to China or Russia. This uncertainty means high-bandwidth IFC solutions that offer global coverage – which are currently few in number – are perhaps more compelling.
  • Many in the industry are concerned that as we move towards realising the vision of the fully-connected aircraft, the opportunity for cyberattacks will increase. The main worry seems to be that such systems will allow wrongdoers to control aircraft and manipulate commands issued to the aircraft. It should be noted that flight control systems are purposefully isolated from all other communications networks on-board the aircraft.
  • Selling an IFC service based on deployment events that have not happened is a significant challenge and operators understandably give much more credit to satellite assets in space than on paper. Further, a delay to the launch of any service has the potential to scare prospective customers away or send them into the arms of rivals. Unfortunately, such delays are all too commonplace for many much-anticipated IFC solutions.

Published in May 2017, “The Market for In-Flight Connectivity on VIP and Business Aircraft” provides an unrivalled insight and analysis into the current and future deployment of IFC on these aircraft. The number of IFC systems installed in 2016 is quantified with forecasts out to 2026 and data is segmented by fitment type, aircraft size, frequency band and geographic region with a full qualitative discussion of the key trends at play in support of this. The report also sizes the market for both service revenues and key enabling hardware, in addition to market share estimates for service providers and capacity providers. A chapter profiling key players is presented, too.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="4980|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/luxury-1961577_960_720-1.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text] Last month, Valour Consultancy released its latest analysis of the market for in-flight connectivity on VIP and business aircraft. The study draws upon our considerable expertise in analysing the adoption of in-flight connectivity (IFC) in commercial aviation and is the result of a rigorous primary research phase consisting of numerous interviews with key players from across the industry. The report finds that, globally, there were 19,131 IFC systems on VIP and business aircraft at the end of 2016. L-band was by far and away the most dominant connectivity technology with cumulative connections representing 75% of the total. A large proportion of this is accounted for by Iridium, whose systems support in-flight satellite phone operations on almost 10,000 aircraft. The remainder of L-band connections are accounted for by Inmarsat, which has seen adoption of SwiftBroadband (SBB) pick up rapidly in recent years. Uptake of Gogo’s Air-to-Ground (ATG) options has been similarly brisk in recent years. By the end 2013, there were 2,047 terminals connected to the Gogo Biz network. This had increased to 4,172 three years later. ATG and L-band both have room for further growth in coming years, too. With respect to ATG, there will likely be continued interest in Gogo’s solutions over the course of the forecast period (2016 to 2026), especially now that the company is close to commercial launch of Gogo Biz 4G and plans to have its next-generation ATG network, which will offer peak network speeds of more than 100 Mbps, up and running by 2018. When you add SmartSky Networks and its 4G network into the mix, as well as the Inmarsat European Aviation Network (EAN), it is apparent that there remains plenty of potential for ATG technology. Though it is yet to be officially confirmed whether the EAN will be used by the business aviation industry, there appears to be consensus that it would work very well on board private aircraft. While Inmarsat is reportedly seeing a lot of interest from operators looking to upgrade from lower-bandwidth IFC systems to Jet ConneX, the company is also working on increasing the performance of the L-band technology used for SBB. Iridium, meanwhile, is currently prepping for the launch of the second batch of Iridium NEXT satellites, which are due for lift off on the 25th June. Upon completion of the constellation in 2018 and the start of commercial service one year later, the so-called Iridium Certus solution will likely find favour among operators of those small- and medium-sized business jets less suited to the fitment of bulky radomes. Adoption of Ku-band technology on VIP and business aircraft appears to have an equally rosy future – a view presumably shared by new market entrants, Panasonic Avionics and Global Eagle, as well as Gogo, which recently announced its first business aviation customer for 2Ku. Right now, there are some 500 Ku-band systems in operation on VIP and business aircraft and the vast majority of these are accounted for by ViaSat and its Yonder system (although it's no longer referred to as Yonder, to shift the focus towards the ViaSat brand). Panasonic and Global Eagle representatives have not been shy in admitting that they are gunning for ViaSat in this market. However, ViaSat appears content to focus on ensuring existing clients migrate to its Ka-band technology – a sensible strategy given the ongoing success of its Exede in the Air product in commercial aviation. Now that ViaSat-2 has finally launched after several setbacks, there will soon be a considerable amount of additional Ka-band capacity for business jets flying between North America and Europe. Additionally, the company says that it will have its three planned ViaSat-3 satellites operational around 2020 making ViaSat the only rival provider of global Ka-band capacity to Inmarsat. By 2020, ViaSat could have some catching up to do if the take up of Jet ConneX is anything to go by. Having debuted in November 2016, there were an estimated 30 aircraft fitted with the solution by the turn of the year. Inmarsat has previously stated that it expects to see 150 Jet ConneX-equipped aircraft by the end of 2017 and has a goal of connecting 3,000 jets by 2020 (although it is apparently now upgrading its forecasts). Overall, we are forecasting that by the end of 2026, there will be 37,710 IFC systems installed on VIP and business aircraft – almost double the current total. The reader should, of course, note that these numbers do not refer to the number of aircraft with IFC. In fact, it is estimated that today, around 1,000 to 2,000 aircraft with Iridium satellite phones also make use of Inmarsat’s SBB network. Likewise, Gogo has publicly reported 4,172 connections to its Gogo Biz service and acts as the service provider for 5,286 installed Iridium terminals as well as 214 installed SBB terminals (a total of 9,972 connections – all accurate and up to date at the end of 2016). However, the firm delivers services to 7,400 aircraft implying many are flying with more than one system installed. The following factors have driven interest in IFC on VIP and business aircraft and will continue to do so in future:
  • Owners of business aircraft fitted with connectivity equipment some time ago will be keener to take advantage of more recent advances in satellite and hardware technology.
  • The ‘Uber-isation’ of the private aviation industry is increasingly being talked about and with e-commerce replacing traditional methods of sourcing and booking a business jet, easy comparisons between different operators and aircraft means that customers can see where one aircraft has IFC and another doesn’t. This transparency will further encourage operators to improve their offerings.
  • As well as the increased comparison between business jets and their features because of new e-commerce initiatives, business aviation is having to compete with the rapid adoption of IFC in commercial air transport perhaps making a first class connected seat more attractive than a private jet with no in-flight Wi-Fi.
  • Competition is hotting up with the likes of Global Eagle, Panasonic Avionics, BizJetMobile and SmartSky Networks all new to the market or preparing to enter.
  • The launch of several new high throughput satellites (HTS) and the prospect of cheaper capacity and faster services is having an extremely positive effect on the market with service providers having inked several new deals in recent years.
  • The connected aircraft and e-Enablement is beginning to resonate more and more as a way to drive operational efficiencies and help underpin the IFC business case.
Some of the remaining challenges to more widespread adoption of IFC on VIP and business aircraft are as follows.
  • Production of new business jets has stagnated and consequently reduced the possibility of line-fit offerability deals for many IFC providers and limited their opportunities for growth.
  • Fitting an aircraft with a sizeable antenna to enable IFC impacts aerodynamics and increases fuel burn, thereby driving up operating costs. Additionally, many smaller business jets are currently unable to accommodate larger Ku- and Ka-band antennas on their fuselages.
  • Current generation Ku-/Ka-band systems lock operators into the service provider (so the hardware is not provider agnostic) and should there be a desire to switch, a very expensive refit ensues.
  • While commercial airlines tend to fly set routes at specific times of day, business jets are more sporadic. One day they may be flying domestically in the US, the next they may be making their way to China or Russia. This uncertainty means high-bandwidth IFC solutions that offer global coverage – which are currently few in number – are perhaps more compelling.
  • Many in the industry are concerned that as we move towards realising the vision of the fully-connected aircraft, the opportunity for cyberattacks will increase. The main worry seems to be that such systems will allow wrongdoers to control aircraft and manipulate commands issued to the aircraft. It should be noted that flight control systems are purposefully isolated from all other communications networks on-board the aircraft.
  • Selling an IFC service based on deployment events that have not happened is a significant challenge and operators understandably give much more credit to satellite assets in space than on paper. Further, a delay to the launch of any service has the potential to scare prospective customers away or send them into the arms of rivals. Unfortunately, such delays are all too commonplace for many much-anticipated IFC solutions.
Published in May 2017, “The Market for In-Flight Connectivity on VIP and Business Aircraft” provides an unrivalled insight and analysis into the current and future deployment of IFC on these aircraft. The number of IFC systems installed in 2016 is quantified with forecasts out to 2026 and data is segmented by fitment type, aircraft size, frequency band and geographic region with a full qualitative discussion of the key trends at play in support of this. The report also sizes the market for both service revenues and key enabling hardware, in addition to market share estimates for service providers and capacity providers. A chapter profiling key players is presented, too. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]